Each generation since — you know, the time when film was invented — has those movies that are best understood by those who were teens when they were released. Though movie are instant classics that anyone can enjoy, but sometimes, you just had to have been the movie’s target audience to really get it.
Millennials aren’t exactly the exception here, but we do have a distinct advantage over the generations that came before us. Not only did we get to experience our own slew of generation-defining films when they premiered, but quite a few of them endured in the form of Internet-ready memes and quotes. These are the movies that millenials grew up with, know by heart, and have probably seen more times than we can count.
1.) Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Austin Powers was no doubt meant to poke fun at how comically dated certain (decidedly British) trends and stereotypes looked in the oh-so-modern 90s. But here we are a few decades later and 90s trends are all the rage yet again. You have to be a millenial to truly feel the irony.
2.) The Sandlot (1993)
Speaking of crushes, quite a few of us young girls this film for reasons that had nothing to do with baseball. Specifically, Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez.
3.) Jurassic Park (1993)
Long before Bryce Dallas Howard‘s impractical heels, an entire generation of kids was traumatized for life by what we thought was the most realistic dinosaurs ever.
4.) Forrest Gump (1994)
Sure, the special effects that placed Forrest Gump in some of the most important 20th century moments seem laughably bad now. But if you were a kid at the time, those shots of Tom Hanks shaking hands with dead presidents was mindblowing. Also…memes and quotes for days.
5.) The Lion King (1994)
It doesn’t matter if this is the only 2-D animated feature on the list. The fact is simply this: The Lion King probably has one of the most epic openings to a movie in film history.
6.) Titanic (1997)
Ask any woman who was a teen in the 90s about her first celebrity crush was. Odds are, there’s a good chance she’ll admit to loving on Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson. They’ll also tell you about the dozen or so times they sobbed their eyes out when he (SPOILER ALERT?) sank to the bottom of the ocean.
7.) Newsies (1992)
Christian Bale might want to bury his Newsies role, but young Bale was the singing orphan heartthrob that many a girl fell in love with whether he wants us to remember it or not.
8.) The Wedding Singer (1998)
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you; there’s an Adam Sandler movie on this list. Believe it or not, there was a time when people appreciated his films, got his humor, and there was quite a bit of heart to his films. The Wedding Singer is perhaps Sandler’s best work. Considering the film was a throwback, that just makes it all the more depressing.
9.) The Matrix (1999)
Ask any millennial about this movie and they’ll either inform you that “there is no spoon,” or they’ll start slowly bending backward in a bizarre way. Either way, The Matrix was one of the greatest sci-fi action movies of its generation.
10.) Fight Club (1999)
We’re technically breaking the first rule of Fight Club by putting this on the list, but we’re willing to do so because Fight Club was a hilariously brilliant commentary on perceptions of repressed male rage. Also, it was another reminder that Jared Leto (yes, he was in that movie) refuses to age.
11.) The Blair Witch Project (1999)
If you were a kid or teen when Blair Witch came out, you definitely heard from at least one person this so-called true story of a trio of filmmakers who got lost and murdered out in the woods. However, the film promised much, showed very little, and to be blunt, didn’t age very well. Yet, people were HYPED for its release and it became a staple for any millennial teen’s scary movie night.
12.) Bring It On (2000)
What? You mean you haven’t done the opening cheer from Bring It On at least once in your life? Well, then you clearly aren’t a millennial. And if you are…well…go here and we’ll pretend that you never admitted such a thing.
13.) The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
The success of this franchise proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that “nerd culture” was here to stay. More importantly, it gave us Orlando Bloom as Legolas, and we’re eternally grateful.
14.) Harry Potter And The Sorceror’s Stone (2001)
Obviously if LoTR made the cut, then Harry Potter, another franchise launched in 2001, had to get on this list. It honestly had every child (and teen…and adult…) checking the mail for their Hogwarts acceptance letter. Nearly two decades later… and we’re still blaming it on a mix-up at the post office.
15.) Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
You either loved or hated this movie. And considering the fact that pretty much nobody talks about it anymore, we’re going to guess that the only people who continue to pay this film any kind of attention are probably millennials — or millennials-at-heart.
16.) Mean Girls (2004)
Mean Girls might be the most meme and gif-worthy movie ever made about life as a teenage girl in high school. It’s an instantly relatable classic that is oh, so fetch.
17.) Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Want to know why people sometimes refer to themselves as being in a “glass case of emotions?” Then this is the film you’re looking for.
18.) The Dark Knight (2008)
For many, The Dark Knight will be remembered for Health Ledger‘s final film role. For others, it will be known as “a movie that came out when it was DC comic book movies that were all the rage while Marvel was trying to catch up.” Although times have changed, one thing hasn’t: We still miss Ledger very much.
19.) The Social Network (2010)
A movie so blatantly about Facebook that they didn’t even call it Facebook; they just assumed you knew what they were talking about. And if you’re a millennial, you’ll always get it. Which means you’ll be the ones future generations go to when they want to know what the heck a “social network” is.
20.) Toy Story 3 (2010)
Why is the third movie in this franchise on the list? Because millennials were the group that emotionally invested in the previous two…which is exactly why the people bawling their eyes out during the more emotional moments were strictly grownups for the most part.